Given the royal mess over Telangana and similar demands being vociferously made by other regions, is it perhaps time for a new reorganization of states in India along more measured, definable lines, asks VANIT SETHI
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]S you drive beyond Jubilee Hills – Hyderabad’s posh suburb, distinguished by huge bungalows surrounded by rocks of all shapes and sizes – you enter Cyberabad, Hyderabad’s brand new sister. Cyberabad is the westside extension of the former twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad (now a tricity – like Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula in northern India).
It’s an exclusive IT, financial and multinational zone of this southern mega city. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Oracle, Infosys, Wipro, TCS – you name it, and they are here. Then, you have prominent finance companies in the financial district, and there are top- class educational institutions too located in this zone – Indian School of Business (ISB), National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), National Academy of Construction (NAC), and the Central University of Hyderabad.
Alongside the steel-and-glass structures of the MNCs are huge and stylish malls, besides exclusive gated communities, housing many expats working in IT companies.
The city is expanding further and further around Cyberabad. This is the neo-rich kid off the block – spoiled and pampered in many ways. The IT boom is very much evident here – it competes with India’s silicon valley, Bangalore. The brainchild of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, Cyberabad stands apart from the rest of the city. This area has an international look and feel.
The other two parts of the city – Hyderabad and Secunderabad – look run down in comparison, though they have their own charm. Hyderabad itself has two parts – the old city, and the new city. The walled city across the Musi – once a river, now a gutter – has a very distinct old-world charm. This is the original Hyderabad of Char Minar, Salar Jung Museum, and Falaknuma Palace.
This is where you’ll find the huge, colorful bangle market (Laad Bazaar); this is where you can buy some of the most precious pearls in the country; and this is where you can savour the most sumptuous biryanis in the whole world. This part of the city exists in a previous century – of mushairas, qawwalis, purani havelis and lazeez daawats. It is a dying world now, neglected and ignored.
The contrast with Cyberabad could not be starker. Narrow streets, close living spaces, and the reality of poverty behind the illusion of opulence leads to frequent communal tensions. It’s an area the rest of the city remembers only when they have to take visitors for sight-seeing; or when they are reminded of it during riots.
The newer Hyderabad throbs with life, accentuated with traffic jams, blaring horns and vehicle fumes. Hussain Sagar – the massive lake in the heart of the city – divides Hyderabad from Secunderabad. The Necklace Road, circling the lake, is the city’s new entertainment hotspot with parks, restaurants and multiplexes.
Secunderabad, in the north of Hyderabad, is a green, neat and clean cantonment area, with many British-style bungalows. This parallel city was established by the British, mainly to expand their area of control around the Nizam’s princely state. The city’s main railway station is in Secunderabad.
Thus, all these three cities – Hyderabad, Secunderabad, and Cyberabad – are a world in themselves, living, working and socializing within their confines. It is a fascinating metropolis on the Deccan Plateau, at a height of about 1,500 feet – which explains its pleasant weather for much of the year.
It’s a cosmopolitan city, with a mix of people from all across the country – and now, many foreigners too. This capital of Andhra Pradesh is a unique synthesis of Hindu-Muslim and North-South cultures.
But its attractiveness is now the cause of a major dispute between two regions of the state – Telangana and Coastal Andhra – with the third region, Rayalaseema, watching the developments helplessly from the sidelines. Telangana has been clamouring for separate statehood since 1969.
Before India’s independence, it was part of the Nizam’s princely state of Deccan, with Hyderabad as its capital. Deccan included some areas of the present Karnataka and Maharashtra. During the reorganization of states in 1956, the Telugu-speaking areas of Deccan were merged with the Telugu-speaking areas of the former Madras state to create the new state of Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as its capital. Similarly, the Kannada and Marathi speaking areas of Deccan were merged with the then Mysore and Bombay states to create Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The Telangana region had been unhappy with their merger into Andhra Pradesh from the beginning, despite sharing a common language – Telugu. The merger was a fait accompli because states were reorganized on a linguistic basis in 1956. The first major Telangana agitation began way back in 1969, barely 13 years after the creation of Andhra Pradesh. Over the years, the agitation kept recurring in fits and starts, but picked up momentum only in the late 1990s. In the decades in between, it seemed the movement had lost its appeal, particularly among youth. Then, came K Chandrashekhar Rao to rake up the issue once again, proving that the movement had not died down, but remained dormant.
People in the rest of India are unable to comprehend the issue, as there have been demands for separate states in other states too, but none as vociferous as Telangana.
What is problematic is the basis for a separate state demand. It has been traditionally understood that a separate language, culture, ethnicity, race or community can form that basis, but not a feeling of neglect or underdevelopment. On the above criteria, Jammu and Kashmir would have been three different states, and Gorkhaland would be separate from West Bengal.
And if neglect can be the basis of a separate state, then Vidarbha of Maharashtra, Uttar Kannada of Karnataka, and Kutch of Gujarat too should have separated. Many experts have argued that you cannot have a state simply on the basis of a long-pending demand, or a prolonged agitation, because it sets off a bad precedent (as happened last year in Gorkhaland and Bodoland). But that is exactly what the Telangana demand has been.
Now that the Central government has agreed to the creation of Telangana, can the issue still be looked at from a fresh perspective? Observing two very opposing views on the subject, it does make sense to go beyond the rhetoric and think out of the box. The core of the problem has been, is, and will remain Hyderabad, and its sister cities of Secunderabad and Cyberabad, which can be called Hyderabad Urban Agglomeration (HUA).
The Centre has always reacted to Telangana in a casual manner, without understanding this core issue. Since the issue has erupted time and again, it requires studying the problem in some detail. The Srikrishna Committee was an effort in that direction.
The committee, in its report, had listed out several options, but suggested that a united state with a regional committee for Telangana (with some degree of autonomy) was the best option for the state. It knew that Hyderabad was a contentious issue, and that is why it was not in favour of the state’s division. But the Centre again dilly-dallied, because Congress was trying to curry favour with Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS). After further delays – by which time other events like the Hazare movement became more urgent — the Congress announced its ‘T’ decision unilaterally — spreading violence across the Andhra region in the middle of last year.
The Congress cynically saw this as a move to win seats in the new state during an election year. No thought or planning went behind this decision. Now, battlelines are clearly divided between all party legislators from Telangana, and those from the Seemandhra region (Andhra and Rayalseema), with the former in favour of a new state, and the latter wanting the status quo to continue.
But is it now too late for a relook at the issue? I think it’s never too late where it concerns national interest, and the Congress should look beyond the next elections to solve this issue. Before taking any decision, one must understand the issue and foresee the repercussions of that decision on the rest of the country too.
Shouldn’t a new reorganisation of states take place on measured, definable criteria? Keeping all things in mind, with Hyderabad or HUA as the prime focus, I take the liberty to list my own solutions to the issue, and suggest which could be the best one.
- Status quo ante: This simply means things continue as they were earlier, before the announcement. One strong reason not to disturb the status quo is that unless you have a perfect solution, it is better not to mess things up in the process of change. However, this is a temporary solution, with the issue flaring up constantly. In the long-term, this solution can be ruled out.
- Limited Autonomy: While the state remains undivided, you have a limited autonomy for the Telangana region and a regional board for the Rayalseema region to address their concerns (somewhat on the lines of Srikrishna Report).
In this scenario, you can have chief ministers alternating from Seemandhra and Telangana regions; or a CM for Seemandhra and a deputy CM from Telangana, or vice versa. In government offices and departments, the bureaucrats and officials can be 50:50 from the two regions. I feel this solution should be given a try, as it is a compromise between two hardline opposite positions.
- Bifurcation with modifications: If we consider the creation of Telangana as a given, then everything needs to be spelt out clearly. If Hyderabad is to go to Telangana, how much time and money needs to be provided to Seemandhra to build their new capital. Ten years is a good enough time to locate and build a new capital. But rather than start from scratch, somewhere in the middle of the state, a new capital must be built near an already developed city. That’s why the new Seemandhra capital should be built near Visakhapatnam (or Vizag), called New Vizag, as it is the region’s most developed city.
Other cities like Vijayawada do not even come close to it. The so-called locational disadvantage is not so serious really, as not every state capital is in the centre of the state. If the capital city should be in a geographical centre, then Nagpur should have been India’s capital and not New Delhi. Most capital cities across the world are not really in the country’s centre. So, the objections to Vizag as capital city can be over-ruled. Secondly, all the assets must be properly divided like river water sharing, power plants, mineral resources etc, because if these things are not properly spelt out, they can create problems later.
- Joint capital plus UT: This is called the Chandigarh solution. In this case, Hyderabad becomes the joint capital of Telangana and Seemandhra, but the city’s administrative control lies with the Centre, as it becomes a union territory – just like Chandigarh is the joint capital of both Punjab and Haryana, plus a union territory. Ideally, this should be a good solution, as both the states can have Hyderabad as their capital – which is what they desire, but all the funding for the city’s running comes from the Centre. The citizens of Chandigarh are happy with the status of their city, as no state can afford to spend money like the Centre can, for the upkeep of the union territory.
The only problem here is that Hyderabad is in the middle of Telangana, unlike Chandigarh, which borders both Punjab and Haryana. If this is the solution, then a corridor from Hyderabad has to be created to connect it to Seemandhra region – most likely the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway – which can be part of the UT area. This solution may or may not satisfy both, but the corridor will create problems, as it seems an unnatural solution.
- Separate capitals minus Hyderabad: Both the regions have their own capitals – Vizag for Seemandhra and a new capital for Telangana, with Hyderabad becoming a union territory, belonging to neither. For Hyderabadis and many outsiders living in Hyderabad, this could be the best solution, as they would not like to be entangled in this regional war. As a UT, they belong to the entire country, which enhances the city’s status. As far as a new capital for Telangana is concerned, no other city in the region, outside Hyderabad is big enough to be the capital. So, a new capital for Telangana can come up in the surroundings of HUA. For this, an entirely new capital need not be built, as the new city will automatically grow just outside HUA. This city can be called Bhagyanagar – the original name of Hyderabad.
This solution seems better than the previous one, as the corridor bit can be avoided, plus the new city can grow in proximity to HUA. In addition, both Telangana and Seemandhra can continue with their interests in Hyderabad, and need not move their establishments outside HUA. But while this solution may be acceptable to Seemandhra, it may not be for Telangana, though this seems a sensible, practical solution.
- Creation of Rayalseema too: Until now, we have been discussing Telangana and Seemandhra, without thinking of the interests of Rayalseema – AP’s third region, and its most backward. Just because Telangana is being carved out, Rayalseema is clubbed with the Andhra region, to call it Seemandhra. Congress had also tried clubbing two districts out of four (in Rayalseema) with Telangana, to call it Rayala Telangana. But that seems unnatural, and why should Rayalseema be divided for both the states? And why should it go wholsesale with either Andhra or Telangana?
So, sooner or later, there would be a separate Rayalseema demand? Foreseeing that situation, why not create a Rayalseema state too, with Tirupati as the capital (since this city gets a lot of pilgrims, and is the richest city of the region, which is largely poor). This would satisfy Rayalseema more than being clubbed with either state (though a united state is the best option for this backward region). Andhra too would be happy, as they feel they are being saddled with a backward region without the prime city of Hyderabad.
Without Rayalseema and Telangana, Andhra can progress much faster, and be counted as another progressive southern state like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. But HUA becomes a UT here too, because if all the three regions are being carved out as separate states, the city with a distinct culture and lifestyle should also be separate – though not as a state, but as a UT, it being very cosmopolitan. Telangana’s capital can be the proposed Bhagyanagar, as in the previous solution.
- Backburner until Reorganisation: Ideally, this is the solution. Since the people of the region have waited for more than 40 years for a proper solution, why not wait a little more for the near-perfect one. Since the creation of Telangana will have repercussions across India, it is better to put the issue on the backburner for now, at least until the elections are over and a new States Reorganisation Committee is formed for the creation of other new states, in order to pre-empt their demands and agitations.
Since this move will be more thoughtfully considered and studied, it will definitely be a better solution than the other ones. What this solution will be is unknown, as that depends on the new committee, but it may include ideas from the above proposals. In any case, hurrying a solution to the Telangana crisis before the elections is downright foolish – one in which the Congress may lose out in both the regions. So, my vote would go for this solution. Where would yours go to?